"Life is a miracle. Death is inevitable. Everything else is hilarious." -- Stu Baker

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finishing My Master's and Going on Tour in 2010

Myke and Me on Tour!
This past Monday, I finished my next-to-the-last class in my pursuit of my Master’s Degree in Psychology at University of Phoenix. I started taking classes towards my Master’s right after finishing my undergraduate degree in 1979 but I quit after one semester to play music for a living. I was then performing with in an acoustic duo called “The Other Guys”. That act broke up in the summer of 1979 and after playing in another acoustic act of a short while my daughter Amy was born. I quit playing music to get a real job.

I always thought that someday, I would go back to school and get my Master’s but going back to school seemed like a big commitment in time and money, and frankly, physical effort. University of Phoenix (UoP) offered a program online and I funded it with student loans. So, it fit all my criteria for getting my degree and I thought I could do it in my spare time since I am online frequently. It turned out to be harder and more consuming than I thought. However, after two years in the program, I am now only one class away.

Being involved in the study of psychology again taught me some important and interesting lessons. I always felt that with my undergraduate degree, I had learned enough to be to know that I still had a lot to learn. With a Master’s, I feel like I now know enough to be dangerous. That is, I feel like the background, credentials and knowledge now qualify me to make some commentary on why people behave that way I do, however, I still haven’t learned enough to be an expert on anything, so I should probably keep my mouth shut. It’s difficult to articulate the lessons I’ve learned from this Master’s program, however, I will try to bring things into focus a little at a time with this blog.

The time and energy I spent getting my Master’s did take away from my comedy career somewhat, but I’m hoping that as the lessons I learned along the way sink in, they will eventually inform and elevate my comedy. I will finish my Master’s in February and I look forward to having more time and energy to work on my comedy.

Next year, I will be touring a fair amount doing stand up comedy across the US and have started the blog to create a public journey trying to get to the next level in stand up. Besides the usual open mics, I only have a few bookings until the end of March 2010, when I will do a short tour in Oregon and Washington with Myke Dehu and Chet Wild. We intend to start in LA with a few guest sets and will do four nights after that as a part of a Tribble run. Tribble is an agency that books comedians for one-nighters across the Northwest. These days, it’s generally casinos and comedy nights at various bars. It takes a fair amount of driving to get to the first gig of any tour, but then after that the distance between gigs is usually only 4 or 5 hours. The pay is not great but if the headliner and feature travel together, as Myke and I usually do, you can make a buck or two. It is, however, very good experience for comedians who aspire to get to the next level. While on these tours, I have an opportunity to work on my 45-60 minute headliner set. In my local area, I have very few opportunities for that.

For me, it’s nice to have second person along because then there are two people around to help me on stage. With Muscular Dystrophy, I can’t climb steps so I need a couple of people to help me on stage. Myke and I did one tour together with just the two of us and we had to find that second person each time to help me get on stage. It generally worked out, but it had the potential of being awkward.

Chet Wild and I are planning a series of 2 or 3 tours across the US this coming year (2010). Tentatively called the “Cheeseburgers of Comedy” tour, we will do some East coast gigs, some Midwest and a few out here in the West. All told, we should probably do at least 4 to 6 weeks on the road this year.

So, this blog will offer some insight into what it’s like to be on tour as a comic and also what it’s like to aspire to the next level in comedy. This information is all offered in context of the fact that I also have Muscular Dystrophy (MD), so, I’m doing stand up even though I can barely stand up. As the blog moves forward, I’ll offer as many insights on getting better at comedy as I can as well as what it’s like to aspire to anything. The desire to improve and be successful in comedy has elements that are similar to improving in other pursuits. As I mentioned before, at one time, I tried my hand playing music for a living. So, as I am attempting to be better at comedy, (be funnier), I’m also trying to understand what it takes to be more successful in life in general. I’m aware other people are on a similar journey. Some are trying to make it in the music business. Some are authors trying to publish their first book. Some people are simply trying to figure out how to go to college and get a degree in spite of challenging circumstances. These journey’s all have features in common. So, as I move along the timeline and hopefully improve, maybe others can look over my shoulder and learn to and be inspired in some way to be better themselves.

Feel free to comment on the blog or to write me at djstudbaker@yahoo.com. I will try to get back with anyone who takes the time to drop me a note.

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